Orange County Register publisher and greeting card tycoon Aaron Kushner is still interested in Tribune Co.'s newspapers — but told TheWrap that recent cutbacks at the L.A. Times may decrease its value.
The L.A. Times recently underwent another round of layoffs late last month. Shortly after parent Tribune posted a 41 percent drop in profit, the company spent $2.7 billion on 19 television stations and announced plans to spin the publishing arm of the company off. The company has been struggling to emerge from several years of bankruptcy.
Kushner, who is about to launch the Long Beach Register, has made no secret of his interest in Tribune's newspapers, and a Los Angeles Times puchase would certainly be consistent with his newspaper ownership move up the California coast.
Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers are also said to be interested in the L.A. Times. (Charles Koch confirmed this on Tuesday, telling the Wichita Eagle that a bid was "not on the front burner, but it's possible"). But Kushner has become known as a bit of a print evangelist, pouring money into the OC Register since acquiring it in July 2012 to beef up its staff on the theory that better news would lead to profitability.
"We are still actively interested in the Tribune newspapers," Kushner told TheWrap. "We believe that they are important institutions that our business model may work with and they certainly support important communities that if our business worked we would be proud to serve."
Though Kushner declined to discuss specifics, including the price he was willing to pay for the Tribune and whether or not that had changed recently, he said that, generally, a company is worth less as its revenue declines: "The more a potential seller takes out of a business, whether that be digital or physical assets, the less the business is worth."
He spoke out against layoffs as a route to profitability. "We are on record as believing in hiring journalists," he said. "Our feeling is that while reducing staff is one way to improve short term profitability, it degrades long term."
Tribune declined to comment on Kushner's statements or if its recent moves could affect the papers' chances for sale, saying "we have a longstanding policy of declining comment on speculation, which is exactly what this is."
An earlier version of this story misstated Tribune's latest earnings results. TheWrap regrets the error